- UK laws on vision requirements for driving are amongst the most lax in Europe – motorists are currently required to read a number plate once as part of an initial driving test
- The Association of Optometrists is calling for a change in the law requiring all motorists to prove their sight meets legal standards every 10 years
- One in three optometrists have seen patients in the last month, who continue to drive with vision below the legal standard against advice
- Experts warn sight changes can be gradual, and often a person won’t realise that their vision has deteriorated over time
- The Association of Optometrists recommends a sight test at least every two years, to ensure your eyes stay healthy
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is calling for a change in the law that would see all drivers required to prove that their vision meets the legal standard every ten years.
More than one in three optometrists, who diagnose visual impairments and prescribe glasses or contact lenses, have seen a patient in the past month who had vision below the legal standard, yet ignored advice and continued to drive.1
The research also reveals that the majority (91%) of optometrists believe that the current sight requirements for a driving licence are insufficient.
Under the existing law, drivers must undergo an initial number plate test when taking a driving exam, then a self-declaration for renewing licences thereafter. This means a 17-year-old who can read a number plate from 20 metres away when they take their test, may continue to drive with no further checks for the rest of their life.
An additional public poll2 shows that 30% of current road users have doubted whether their vision is adequate, yet continued to drive. A further 26% say they have delayed getting their eyes checked by an optometrist despite suspecting their vision was deteriorating, and 6% admit to stalling a sight test for more than a year.
The survey also found that only 40% would stop driving altogether if they were told their vision, even with glasses or contact lenses, was below the legal standard for driving. With 10% saying that they would continue to drive as normal, regardless.
In response, the AOP is launching the Don’t swerve a sight test campaign ahead of Road Safety Week.3 As part of the campaign, the Association recommends that people get a sight test every two years, to maximise their eye health and make sure they are road safe.
Optometrist and AOP Board member, Dr Julie Anne-Little said:
"The UK system, which relies on self-reporting and an initial number plate test, falls behind many other countries. Because sight changes can be gradual, often people won’t realise that their vision has deteriorated over time. This campaign is about reminding drivers that with a visit to their optometrist – they can not only make sure they meet the standard but help make our roads safer.”
More information about the campaign is available at www.aop.org.uk/dontswerve
- Eight in 10 optometrists want a full sight test to be a requirement for new drivers
- Nine in 10 say all qualified drivers should have regular sight tests
- Two fifths (38%) of UK adults think that the current laws on sight requirements in the UK for a normal car driver should be more rigorous
- 16% of Brits admit to knowing a driver whose eyesight they believe to be below the minimum legal vision standard
- Over 10,000 UK motorists had their licences revoked by the DVLA in 2016 due to poor sight4
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1 Launch survey of Voice of Optometry panel, Alpha research, April 2017
3 Road Safety Week runs from 20th-26th November 2017
4 FOI Request, Driver & Vehicle Licencing Agency – May 2017
Notes to Editors
Association of Optometrists:
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. As a founding member of the Optical Confederation we work with others to improve eye health for the public good. For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk